Three more studies from documentary filmmaker Alma Har’el.



In her first feature film, 2011’s Bombay Beach, Alma Har'el concentrated on three individuals and she does so again here, but this time the chosen subjects live in totally distinct areas. Blake Gurther begins the film engagingly with a voice-over comment in which she asserts: “I think I was born a nerd, but I didn't know what a nerd was”. She lives in Alaska and makes a living as a stripper in a ‘gentlemen’s club’ where an older woman expresses disquiet at such a life as she clings on in middle age while Blake herself pines after the boyfriend who is now her ex. The second subject, Willie Hunt, is found in Hawaii and describes the difficulty he has in adjusting to his situation, that of a man who cannot forgive his girl for having an affair with his best friend. He is still coming to terms with the fact that the son he believed to be his has proved to be that of his friend instead.


If Blake and Willie dominate their own stories, the third one set in New York casts its net wider even if Victory Boyd takes us into it. She is one of seven children belonging to a black family with a religious outlook who perform music together under the leadership of their father. But, if this would suggest a group living in harmony (in every sense of the term), the fact is that the father’s infidelity has driven his wife away and, despite his continuing involvement with another woman, the children still hope that their parents may be reunited.


A lack of condescension when portraying troubled lives marked Har’el’s approach in Bombay Beach and it is equally present in LoveTrue. However, if the structuring of the earlier film seemed haphazard, that is even more so this time. Linked though they may be by the notion that love is problematic and true love something of an illusion, these tales would be far stronger if presented in turn instead of being intercut. This failure to involve us as fully as one would wish is further brought about by the decision to use actors in flashbacks sometimes extending to what Har’el describes as psychodramas and at times we wonder just how much is concocted for the camera (the end credits thank participants for their improvisations). Regardless of the theme of love going awry not just in the present but also in the past (the Boyd children are not the only ones with parents who separated), the film’s attempts to intertwine its tales as though each informs the others seems forced and it is all too easy to imagine this same basic material emerging much more compellingly had the film tackled its material differently. By the close, one can only regard it as a missed opportunity.




Featuring  Blake Gurther, Willie Hunt, Victory Boyd, Joel Sturm, TerriAnn Peters, Abraham Boyd, Angel Boyd, Chineze Enekwechi, Harmony Boyd, Israel Boyd, John Boyd, Honu Hunt.


Dir Alma Har'el, Pro Rebecca Boorsma, Alma Har'el, Rafael Marmor, Rhea Scott and Chris Leggett, Ph Alma Har'el and Theo Stanley, Pro Des Grace Alie and Joshua Stricklin, Ed Alma Har'el and Terry Yates, Music Flying Lotus, Costumes Stephanie Younger.


Delirio Films/Pet Peeve Films/Chicken & Egg Pictures-Dogwoof.
82 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 10 February 2017. Cert. 15.